3D mug shot—3D head models from photogrammetry for forensic identification

Anja Leipner, Zuzana Obertová, Martin Wermuth, Michael Thali, Thomas Ottiker, Till Sieberth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


No human face is like another, not even in monozygotic twins, which makes the face one of the most individualizing characteristic. It is for this reason that the human face is commonly used for identification purposes and police officers take portrait photographs of arrested persons, so-called mug shots. The disadvantage of these 2D mug shots is that the perspective, in which they are taken (usually frontal and lateral-right, left or both), cannot be changed after acquisition, thus limiting a potential comparison between a mug shot and surveillance footage or other visual recordings. Documenting a face in 3D would reduce this problem as it allows adjusting the perspective of the face for image comparisons depending on the needs of the investigator. We have developed a 3D mug shot system containing 26 digital single-lens reflex cameras arranged semi-circularly in a 200° arc with a 1.46 m radius around a height-adjustable chair. We generated photogrammetric models of a test person's face captured by the mug shot system using three different focal lengths settings as well as 3D models of the same face with GOM Atos Triple Scan and Artec Space Spider. The 3D models were then analysed regarding the visibility of detailed morphological features in different regions of the face compared to 2D mug shots. Our results showed that our 3D mug shot system with its photogrammetric documentation generates 3D models with comparable surface quality to Artec-generated models, or even better quality, compared to GOM-generated models. The results of the morphological assessment were affected by the focal length and availability of texture information. In conclusion, the 3D mug shot system is a fast and efficient tool to generate 3D models of the face and may be used in addition to 2D photographs for the purpose of visual forensic identification based on images.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-12
Number of pages7
JournalForensic Science International
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


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